Column: Mirror, mirror: Self-publishing and you

Column: Mirror, mirror: Self-publishing and you

The publishing industry has been on its ear for some time. Upheavals in bookselling have shaken up sales.

Who’s the fairest of them all? When it comes to books, almost everything is fair game.

What was once sneeringly called vanity publishing is now a phenomenon with growing acceptance and turning the book industry on its ear. A 2013 Globe and Mail article cited US statistics that showed a 287 percent increase in self-publishing (both e-books and print books) since 2006. I can’t imagine what that number might be now, but I guarantee it is up.

The publishing industry has been on its ear for some time. Upheavals in bookselling — Amazon, Chapters — have shaken up sales, and independent bookstores have been dropping like flies. The great success of Nelson’s own Otter Books is a testament to this community’s love for all things independent, and creative savvy and good service on the part of its owner and staff.

Those deep discounts demanded by the ever-more-powerful online/chain stores have wreaked havoc on publishers, one more nail in many coffins—my own publisher among them. So there are fewer publishers publishing fewer books and taking fewer chances with unproven authors.

This does not bode well for the selection of books you buy or borrow — and it’s a nightmare for that talented author with a bouncing baby book and nowhere to put it. Enter the self-publishing — AKA indie publishing — boom.

And who could blame an author for wanting to see that book in print (literally or virtually) and take matters into his or her own hands? Especially when there are so many vehicles to get there, including self-publishing services where you work together to varying degrees of professionalism and value for dollar.

Or you can do it all yourself: look after design, content, acquisition of ISBN and CIP and all those niggly things from your own desk, as we did with the library’s lovely fundraising literary cookbook Seasonings. But while I’ve self-published a few books this way, I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin with an eBook.

So how to get started, you brilliant newbie with book in hand and no place to call home? That’s where Kristene Perron comes in, an award-winning Indie author who’ll offer an introduction to self-publishing in a one-hour presentation at the Library next Tuesday, February 17 at 7 p.m..

Full disclosure: I’ve had the privilege of watching Kristene work on the Kootenay Literary Competition among other good things. She’s smart, fun, and well-organized, and I can’t think of a better person to help demystify self-publishing and help point authors — whether with book in hand, or simply a great idea — in the right direction to make those baffling choices.

Self-publishing is a hot topic. Last year the Writers Union of Canada voted to include self-published writers (because heck, even Margaret Atwood is doing it.) And Public Lending Right, the Canadian body that compensates authors for the library books you borrow every day, is trying to figure out how to recognize the phenomenon within an ever-diluted supply of funds.

As the gal responsible for the Nelson library’s adult collection, I’m inundated with requests from self-published authors to purchase their book — a logistical nightmare for a small library that manages resources by purchasing through a library service, which is no doubt struggling to figure out what to do with the indie boom as well. Without a publisher to vet for quality, it can be hard to know what’s good.  And so the discussion continues.

If self-publishing is  a big conundrum, it’s also exciting and rife with opportunity — and that’s why, if you’re one of those who has looked in the mirror, asked the question, and answered: “fair enough, actually”, you’ll want to come to the library next Tuesday evening. Admission is free, although donations to help with library programming are always welcome.


— Anne DeGrace is the Adult Services Coordinator at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. For more information go to